By Matthew Burrows
I was part of a conversation recently with a couple of women discussing feminism, when one of them made a point I wish I’d remembered well enough to quote. In essence it was akin to Newton’s third law: if you push something, it pushes back. Some women, pushed by frustration at a lack of equality, move into misandry, and their misuse of the term ‘feminist’ provokes ‘meninists’ (who hardly deserve discussing) into claiming the tables have turned, that feminists are now oppressing men. This way of thinking is stupid – positively dumb – but it’s what happens when you’re arguing against prejudices. A woman telling a misogynist what they are isn’t going to actually change anything because of the simple fact that the misogynist is not going to listen.
What is needed is pull to work with the push. As my friend said, ‘feminism needs men’. Not in a ‘move aside darlin’, you’ve done alright but let the men deal with it now’ way. But in the sense that a movement about equality has to be fought for by both sides. Shouting at deaf misogynists won’t achieve anything, but teaching people – of any gender – how to avoid stereotypes and ingrained prejudices they might not even know they hold, will actually help reduce prejudices.
I always thought of myself as an ‘equalist’, or some other bollocks term like that. I thought the patriarchy would never be brought down, so all I can do is try not to spread prejudice and hope that future generations will be brought up with better ideals than the past. This is, of course, a bit misanthropic, but that’s me. I still think I was half-right; the patriarchy won’t be smashed, obliterated or anything of the likes. But hearing women talk about feminism needing cooperation, I realised that perhaps it can be dismantled.
Perhaps, just standing by is what allows things like ‘meninists’ and ‘feminazis’ to exist. They still see a world where the genders are in competition. Maybe being a feminist is even a duty, some little apology men can make for the inequality of their ancestors, to stand for equality now. So that’s why I’ve started calling myself a feminist. This in the hopes that it might lead to my being a better person, or even – heaven forbid! – actually doing some good for once.
Doubtless, nothing I’ve written here is actually any new thought, and I’ve probably accidentally offended a dozen groups, but at least I’m starting to care whether I’ve made such mistakes. With a little learning, maybe I can start to join in with the good examples and some real social change will accelerate.
This article was published in our October 2016 issue.